Summer 2007 Newsletter from Tom Wolff and Associates: assessment

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From: Tom Wolff & Associates <tom at>

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Welcome to the Summer 2007 Issue of the "Collaborative Solutions 
Newsletter" from Tom Wolff & Associates. This issue addresses issues of 
evaluation and documentation – “Assessing Our Progress and Celebrating 
Our Success”.

We try to take the mystery and fear out of evaluation and make it not 
only understandable and doable – but maybe even fun. The issue also 
includes brand new Coalition Assessment instruments.

Newsletter issues are available online at You may find 
that the web versions to be the easiest to read and download. A text 
version can be found below.

We encourage you to distribute this information to your friends and 
colleagues. You can subscribe for free or unsubscribe at the end of the 
newsletter. Let us know what you think and what else you would like to 
see in the Newsletter.

Tom Wolff
Tom Wolff & Associates

Collaborative Solutions
A Newsletter from Tom Wolff & Associates
Contents of Summer 2007 Collaborative Solutions Newsletter:

In this issue:

Assessing Our Progress & Celebrating Our Success
Why does documentation and evaluation matter in collaborative solutions?
What kinds of questions can an evaluation help answer?
Community-based participatory evaluation
A framework for evaluation of coalitions
Community Story: a neighborhood organization
Levels of coalition assessment - tool
Community Story: national organization with multiple sites
Coalition Member Assessment - tool
Community Story: a small non-profit and two communities
Tools and Resources
Highlights from Tom Wolff & Associates
Assessing Our Progress & Celebrating Our Success
Why does documentation and evaluation matter in collaborative solutions?

The question, how we are doing? often comes up in community work 
involving collaborative solutions. Sometimes a coalition’s funders 
expect formal evaluations. At other times the question arises when a 
member says, “Well, we have been meeting for months [or years] and what 
have we accomplished? Is the community any better off?”
We do often think that funders are the driving force that impels us to 
evaluate our coalition progress. However, if we look carefully we often 
discover that our members (especially our grassroots members) are often 
involved in a regular evaluation process. They vote with their feet by 
attending or dropping out of our community efforts. They participate 
when they perceive that the coalition is succeeding at creating change.
Most collaborations are motivated to engage in an evaluation process 
because it is required for their funding. Someone on the outside has 
decided for them that evaluation is a necessity. Yet successful 
evaluations most often occur when the collaboration itself decides that 
there are critical questions that must be answered, such as: After 
having been at this for three years, are we getting anything done? Are 
we being effective? Is the way that we are set up the most effective? 
What do all of our members think about what we are doing? These kinds of 
questions can motivate a collaboration’s steering committee and staff to 
undertake an evaluation process with a high level of interest.
Assessing our progress and knowing whether we are succeeding is vitally 
important to all of us. Yet we know that in most collaborative solution 
processes very little evaluation or assessment occurs (Cashman and 
Berkowitz, 2000). Coalitions may fail to evaluate their efforts for 
several reasons: (1) They lack motivation and interest; (2) They lack 
access to easy, usable tools for evaluating both the process and the 
outcome of the collaborative efforts; (3) They fear what evaluators 
might "find"; or (4) They fail to find appropriate evaluators and set up 
effective, mutually respectful relationships with them--relationships in 
which the data collected are actually useful.
So why do collaborations become engaged in evaluations? There are some 
clear motivations: (1) They want to improve their work and getting 
feedback is one proven way to accomplish that; (2) They want to record 
and celebrate their successes; (3) They must report on their progress to 
a funder, a board, or the community; (4) They are thinking of their 
future and issues of sustainability, and a first step in ensuring 
ongoing viability is assessment that tells the group which activities to 
continue and which to jettison (
(CADCA, 2006 see Resources).
What kinds of questions can an evaluation help answer?

What activities took place? A process evaluation focuses on day-to-day 
activities. Methodologies include activity logs, surveys, and 
interviews. Materials to track can include in-house developments, 
outside meetings, communications received, community participation, and 
media coverage. Surveys can rate the importance and feasibility of goals 
and the satisfaction of members. Process evaluation can also analyze 
critical events in the development of the collaboration. Process 
evaluation helps a coalition see the strengths and weaknesses of its 
basic structure and functions.

What was accomplished? An outcome evaluation focuses on accomplishments. 
It can include changes in the community (the number and type of shifts 
in policies or practices) as well as the development of new services. It 
can also involve surveys of self-reported behavior changes, rating the 
significance of outcomes achieved. The number of objectives met over 
time is a useful evaluation tool.

What were the long-term effects? An impact evaluation focuses on the 
ultimate impacts that the collaboration is having on the community, over 
and above specific outcomes. The focus here is on statistical indicators 
of population-level outcomes. For example, a teen pregnancy 
collaboration might focus on the pregnancy rate for its community.
Community-based participatory evaluation

Once the results have been collected and reports written, the 
collaboration must actively disseminate the findings to the community so 
that its members can look at the data, decide what changes are necessary 
in response to the findings, and change or adapt the strategic plan and 
the collaboration’s activities in response to the results found in the 

In order to satisfy the coalition’s interests, the evaluations must be 
both methodologically sound and intimately involved with the 
organization. Too often our evaluation processes and instruments are 
developed and implemented by outside evaluators. Coalition members only 
see the information many months or even years after it is collected, 
when final reports are prepared for the funder.

In collaborative solutions processes, we strongly advocate for close 
working relationships between the evaluators, the coalition staff, and 
the community. You cannot learn from evaluation results that are not fed 
back to you regularly. Nor can you celebrate successes in a timely 
manner. You cannot develop a sustainability plan unless all coalition 
members have access to evaluation information. So when we work in 
collaborative situation we not only have to develop appropriate 
evaluation mechanisms, we have to develop whole new ways for the 
community to engage in the process.
A framework for evaluation of coalitions

Evaluation of coalitions is complex. The field and the literature are 
evolving and new research documentation systems and tools emerge on a 
regular basis. There are questions about what to measure and how to 
measure the process and the various levels of outcomes (Wolff, T. A 
Practical Approach to Evaluating Coalitions

One of the best models for evaluating coalitions comes from the Work 
Group for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas 
( Based on the Institute of Medicine’s 
framework for collaborative public health action in communities (2003), 
this evaluation model is described below. It’s easy to see that this 
model would apply not just to the coalition-building work of 
organizations but also to other systems-change agendas.

A framework for collaborative public health action in communities.

(Source: CDC, 2002; Fawcett et al., 2000; Institute of Medicine, 
National Academy of Sciences, 2003.)

The model for participatory evaluation developed by Fawcett and Schultz 
(2007) is made easier through customized Internet-based Workstations 
that include online supports for documenting and analyzing 
accomplishments, graphing, and reporting. It provides clear pathways for 
understanding the change processes involved in collaborative solutions, 
and therefore for understanding the evaluation questions that follow. In 
most efforts that involve collaborative solutions, we are working with 
multiple factors that produce multiple and interrelated outcomes. No 
single intervention--no one program or policy change targeting one 
behavior--is likely to improve population-level outcomes. Often there 
are long time delays between a collaborative’s actions and the resulting 
widespread behavior change. So it is difficult to assess whether any 
effort, or combination of efforts, is bringing about change. And of 
course the most important thing we want to know is whether our efforts 
are producing change.
With the KU Work Group’s participatory evaluation model (Fawcett, et 
al., 1995; 2000; 2003; 2004), groups document new programs, policies, 
and practices, along with the community and systems changes that are the 
critical components of the coalition effort. Programs, policies, and 
practices—changes in communities and systems-- are central to this 
model. If we think about it, these three really do capture the 
intermediary changes that most of us see along the path to community 
change. Say we are looking to reduce the level of smoking in a given 
community. Before we can measure the population-level reduction in 
smoking, we can document that we've put smoking-cessation classes in 
place, smoking-prevention programs in the schools, policies on smoking 
cessation in workplaces, and policies to ban smoking in restaurants. We 
can also document changes in smoking behavior (practices) in multiple 
settings (schools, work, entertainment). Documentation of these types 
give us an excellent intermediary way to measure a coalition’s success 
long before we can document the change in smoking levels in the 
community as a whole.
The KU Work Group’s participatory evaluation framework (Fawcett et al., 
2004; Institute of Medicine, 2003), detailed below, proposes a general 
model with evaluation questions related to the five phases of the IOM model.
Overall question: Is the initiative serving as a catalyst for change 
related to the specific goals?

Evaluation questions at each of the five phases are:

1. Assessment and collaborative planning
1. How has the coalition developed its organizational capacity?
2. Does the coalition have a vision and a plan for community mobilization?
3. Is the coalition membership inclusive of all community sectors?
2. Targeted action intervention
1. Has the coalition developed measurable and targeted action steps?
2. Is the coalition taking actions to reach its goals?
3. Will these action steps help the coalition reach its goals and meet 
its objectives?
3. Community and systems change
1. Does the coalition create community changes, defined as changes in 
programs, policies, and practices?
2. Have participating organizations changed programs, policies, and 
practices? (These are the intermediary outcomes that seem to be able to 
predict the ultimate population-level change).
4. Widespread behavior change
1. How widespread is the change?
2. Where have these changes occurred and what form do they take?
3. Are changes happening in many sectors and systems?
5. Improvement in population-level outcomes
1. How are community/system changes contributing to the efforts to 
improve the community?
2. Are community/system changes associated with improvements in 
population-level outcomes?

The chart above plots out both community changes (policies, practices, 
programs) and population-level outcomes. The relationship of the curve 
changes for these measures is one way of getting attribution.

Although this model was especially developed around health issues, it 
generalizes quite well to most types of community change (see Fawcett et 
al, 2004). Thus, an ultimate population-level outcome may be the level 
of smoking in a community and level of smoking-related illness (for a 
health-related concern) or it may be the level of violence, or the level 
of access to adult basic education for immigrants (for social concerns).
Community Story: A Neighborhood Organization, Documentation/Evaluation

The best way to show you what we mean is to tell you about some of the 
work we do with coalitions and communities. We get called upon to 
conduct or assist with evaluations in many ways. On the most basic 
level, we work with grassroots neighborhood groups who need to track 
their successes for themselves and their stakeholders. On a larger 
scale, we are contracted to evaluate national coalition-building 
programs with numerous sites across the country. In both cases, the core 
question is what information will help the coalition grow and be able to 
demonstrate its accomplishments to its members and its stakeholders.
With the Cleghorn Neighborhood Center (CNC) in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, 
we helped them shift their mission and work from a service framework 
back to its roots in community development and community organizing. It 
received funding from the Community Foundation of North Central 
Massachusetts and a green light from its board for this shift. Following 
this change, both the coalition and the foundation needed to see whether 
the new plan was really going to work. Because little community 
development work was occurring in the neighborhood, how to asses the new 
approach was a mystery for many in the area. Community development was 
also new territory for the staff, so we designed a documentation process 
that would help the staff stay on track at the same time as they 
recorded their progress.

We adapted the University of Kansas’ Online Documentation and Support 
System (for information on purchasing these services go to the KU Work 
Group’s website: 
). This is based on the Ku Work Group’s efforts to provide the 
grassroots group with a low-cost/no-cost tracking system. The staff 
defined and logged activities, recorded number of people involved, and 
tracked resources generated, planning products, services provided, 
community actions by staff and residents, and community changes. (See 
definitions below). As a result of these records, CNC was able to 
provide charts and commentary in its report to its funder and its board.

Click here for an example from a CNC report/grant application:
Many levels of coalition assessment

When we set out to document our collaborative solutions work, we have 
lots of choices as to what we will look at and what we will measure. We 
can ask mainly internal-process questions about whether the coalition 
has the members and core processes that it needs. We can ask about 
relationships and changes in relationships, which emerge as both process 
and outcome components critical to a collaborative’s success. Finally, 
we can ask about the various levels of outcomes, or end results.
A Level of Coalition Assessment Tool has been developed that describes 
the range of questions we can choose from when we document our 
coalitions’ work. We use this list to help clients decide what they want 
to learn about through documentation and evaluation. In a collaborative 
participatory evaluation process, the members of the coalition and the 
community can review these questions to decide what is most important 
for them to know. This helps ensure that the evaluation is aimed at the 
key needs of the coalition’s members.
Community Story: National Organization with Multiple Sites-Documentation 
and Evaluation

One example of the use of a list of levels of assessment, like the one 
referenced above, involves our work with a federal project with 17 sites 
covering the nation. In the last year, we were asked to evaluate the 
progress of each of the 17 networks on its collaborative ventures. Our 
efforts have involved a number of steps. We started with the list of 
questions on the levels of assessment to help us all understand what the 
federal agency and the networks wanted to assess. The evaluation 
ultimately included a review of the work to date; the development and 
completion of oral interviews of the 17 directors and staff; and the 
development of an online Coalition Member Assessment form.
Coalition Member Assessment Tool

The Coalition Member Assessment Tool is a variation of earlier 
satisfaction surveys ( - see 
Gillian Kaye, Steve Fawcett instruments) that allow members to rate 
their coalition on a 1-5 scale, from agree to strongly disagree. The 
instrument has 44 rated questions and a few open-ended questions. It 
covers the following areas:
Vision – planning, implementation, progress
Leadership and membership
Systems outcomes
Benefits from participation
Open-ended questions

The Coalition Member Assessment lends itself to online survey mechanisms 
(Survey Monkey at, Zoomerang at 
that make it easy to administer the survey and tabulate the results.
Community Story: A Small Non-Profit and Two Communities, - Documentation 
and Evaluation

Another evaluation story involves our work with a small substance-abuse 
agency in upstate New York where we helped them to track their 
development work in two struggling communities. This evaluation was 
designed to allow the staff, which was untrained in evaluation, to 
conduct the evaluation themselves and to feed back data to the community 
on a regular basis. A notebook was developed that included logs of all 
activities undertaken by the coalition (staff and community members), 
minutes from meetings, records of meeting attendance, and copies of all 
community press coverage. Most coalitions ordinarily keep this type of 
information, so it could easily be channeled to produce the core data 
for both process and outcome evaluations.
One of the goals of the coalition was to create leadership. The 
attendance and logs were examined to document moments when community 
members took a leadership role. These were charted.
The regular logs of activity were analyzed through a system developed by 
the University of Kansas (Fawcett et al 1995; 2000; 2003; 2004) to 
document collaborative outcomes. The initiative documented services 
provided, planning products, resources generated, community actions, and 
community changes. These variables were charted in a cumulative graph.
A format was created for evaluating all training opportunities for 
community members, and finally a member-satisfaction survey and 
follow-up interviews were implemented.
All of these were pretty straightforward mechanisms. They were 
implemented by a local staff person who had little background in 
evaluation but worked with care and produced a highly successful 
notebook. The notebook provided a clear picture of the coalition’s 
activities and successes. As the data emerged, it was regularly shared 
with coalition members at their monthly meetings. The community 
participants found the information useful and the completed notebook 
provided impressive coverage of the coalition’s activities for the large 
foundation that was supporting its work.
This project offers a wonderful example of how a consultant can build 
the client’s evaluation capacity instead of doing the evaluation. One 
advantage of this approach is that evaluation can be easily integrated 
into the coalition’s daily work—both gathering information and immediate 
use of the findings. In this case, the staff person regularly shared 
evaluation information with members as it emerged. Another advantage is 
that the sponsoring organization ends up with a staff person who has new 
evaluation skills.

We hope that this issue of the Collaborative Solutions Newsletter will 
help our readers feel more comfortable and less intimidated with the 
idea of assessing progress and celebrating successes. We hope to help 
coalitions feel that they are able to proceed with documentation and 
evaluation of their collaborative efforts on their own.
Documentation and evaluation are important. They allow you to understand 
where your coalition is going; what your members feel about the 
direction; and whether, indeed, you're making a difference.
Documentation and evaluation of collaborative efforts is understandable 
and do-able. It does not have to be a mystery. It does not have to call 
up old math anxiety. It can simply involve asking the key people the key 
Documentation and evaluation can help your coalition answer critical 
questions about your efforts. Are you all clear on where you are headed? 
Do you have a viable structure? What changes are you really creating? Is 
your progress steady?
Documentation and evaluation, when done in a participatory manner so 
that the coalition and not the evaluator is in charge, will help your 
coalition grow.

CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). (2002). Syndemics 
overview: What procedures are available for planning and evaluating 
initiatives to prevent syndemics? The National Center for Chronic 
Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Syndemics Prevention Network. 
Available online at 
Accessed June 13, 2007.
Fawcett, S.B., Francisco, V.T., and Schultz, V.T. (2004). Understanding 
and improving the work of community health and development. In J. Burgos 
and E. Ribes (Eds.), Theory, basic, and applied research and 
technological applications in behavior science. Guadalajara, Mexico: 
Universidad de Guadalajara.
Fawcett, S. B., Francisco, V. T., Hyra, D., Paine-Andrews, A., Schultz, 
J. A., Russos, S., Fisher, J. L., and Evensen, P. (2000). Building 
healthy communities. In A. Tarlov and R. St. Peter (Eds.), The society 
and population health reader: A state and community perspective (pp. 
75-93). New York: The New Press.
Fawcett, S.B., Schultz, J.A., Carson, V. L., Renault, V.A., and 
Francisco, V.T. Using Internet based tools to build capacity for 
community-based participatory research and other efforts to promote 
community health and development. In M. Minkler and N. Wallerstein 
(Eds.), Community based participatory research for health (pp. 155-178). 
San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Fawcett, S. B., Sterling, T. D., Paine-Andrews, A., Harris, K. J., 
Francisco, V. T., Richter, K. P., Lewis, R. K., and Schmid, T. L. 
(1995). Evaluating community efforts to prevent cardiovascular diseases. 
Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center 
for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
Institute of Medicine. (2003). The community. In The future of the 
public’s health in the 21st century (pp. 178-211). Washington, DC: 
National Academies Press.
Tools and Resources:

How to purchase participatory evaluation services and online supports 
from the University of Kansas Work Group for Community Health and 
Development: The KU Work Group can build and provide technical support 
for a customized Online Documentation and Support System for your 
initiative (Link to below and link to KU Work Group’s website

Building Healthy Communities – Lessons and Challenges,
Berkowitz ,B.& Cashman,S, Community 3(2), 1-7 2000

CADCA Report Drug-Free Communities Support Program National Evaluation.– 
2006 National Evaluation of DFC (Drug Free Communities) Program Shows 
Successful Coalitions Exhibit Similar Characteristics National Coalition 
Institute Research into Action April1,2007 Office of National Drug 
Control Policy. (2007). Annual findings report 2006: Drug-Free 
Communities Support Program National Evaluation. Battelle & the 
Association for the Study and Development of Community. Click here to 
download the 2006 Annual Findings Report.:

Monitoring and Evaluation of Coalition Activities and Success by Stephen 
Fawcett, David Foster, and Vincent Francisco. Chapter in From the Ground 
Up: A Workbook on Coalition Building and Community Development by Tom 
Wolff and Gillian Kaye.

A practical approach to evaluating coalitions. Tom Wolff in Backer,T. (Ed.)
Evaluating Community Collaborations. Springer Publishing, p57-112, 2003.

Studying the Outcomes of Community-Based Coalitions, Berkowitz, Bill
In The Future of Community Coalition Building American Journal of Community
Psychology Vol. 29, no.2, 213-228, 2001
Highlights of recent work by Tom Wolff & Associates

The last six months have been an especially productive and busy time for 
Tom Wolff & Associates. We are delighted to have been engaged in 
exciting work with numerous organizations at local, state, and national 
levels.Some highlights are noted below:

Boston College: Building community – university relationships to 
increase capacity regarding substance-abuse prevention.

Boston’s REACH 2010 program: Disparities in breast and cervical cancer 
among Black women. Ongoing consultation and training focused on 

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services: Ongoing support to the 
Strategic Partnership for Change coalition building efforts of the End 
Stage Renal Disease Networks within CMS. Consultation, training and 
program evaluation.

Cleghorn Neighborhood Center: Ongoing consultation to grassroots 
neighborhood organization.

Enlace, Holyoke: Building the Next Generation of Latino Leadership in 
Coordinating all existing community coalitions for the benefit of the 

First National Conference for Caregiving Coalitions--Creating a Legacy: 
Sustaining Your Efforts, March 2007, Chicago, IL.

Healthy Wisconsin Leadership Institute--Creating a Legacy: Sustaining 
Your Efforts, April 2007, Madison, WI.

Highland Valley Elder Services: Consultation--building community assets 
in elder communities and elder housing.

Kansas Health Foundation 2007 Recognition Grant Conference: 
Collaborative Solutions for Communities. What do we think and know about 
Collaboration? April 2007, Wichita, KS.

Society for Community Research and Action: Creating and planning the 
First Community Psychology Practice Summit.

Wyoming Tobacco Coalitions: Building and Sustaining Wyoming’s Tobacco 
Coalitions, April 2007, Casper, WY.

Tom Wolff & Associates
24 South Prospect St
Amherst, Massachusetts 01002

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